Autobiography in Five Sentences

posted January 4, 2024

It’s Day 2 of my January Retreat here in Little Blue. Every morning, I give a short prompt best done long-hand. Today’s was inspired by Melissa Febos, a brilliant writer of memoir, who gives an exercise like this to her students on a regular basis. You could do this exercise every day and get something different. Here is what I wrote:

My parents were young, innocent, lovers of folk music, and they wanted me, their first-born, very much.

I grew to consciousness in the bosom of my father’s family, almost my grandmother’s fifth child, surrounded by aunts who were smart, creative, loving, and funny.

When we moved from New York City to suburban Northern Virginia, I was depressed for many years; I felt like an outside observer, and didn’t know who I was anymore.

At age fourteen, I realized I was supposed to be something of an outsider/observer precisely because I am an artist.

I’ve spent the rest of my life since then honoring both truths about myself: one, that I am a person who thrives within a loving family and two, that I must have space and time to create the work I was put on earth to do.

A family of nine, three generations seated outdoors in summertime under a tree. The author is two years old, sitting on a young teenage girl's lap. The author is holding a stuffed lion and looking towards her grandmother, who is sitting ramrod straight up, right next to her.
My father’s family circa 1969. I am in the yellow dress holding the stuffed lion, sitting on my aunt Jenifer’s lap. My mother and father are in the last row. My mother is smiling, has her arm around her father-in-law’s shoulder. He, my grandfather, is holding my baby sister Katryna. My grandmother is holding Timbre, then a puppy.

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  1. Wow! Nicely done– your five-sentence auto-bio definitely captures the inner Nerissa. The picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words photo and caption complement your written effort (indeed it might make it a six-sentence illustrated auto-bio). I am inspired to try my own, although it won’t come easily: I am not good at being pithy and succinct.

    Thank you for this, Nerissa!

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